Wales rush Webb back for Italy clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scrumhalf Rhys Webb has been named in Wales' starting XV for their Six Nations clash against Italy on Sunday.
Webb is one of five changes to the side that beat South Africa last November.
Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Jake Ball and Sam Warburton are the other new faces in the team from that last match against the Boks.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones leads the side in Rome, the city where he first wore the captain's armband for his country back in 2009.
Webb is the only change in the backline from the side that beat the Springboks, with the 28-year-old returning from injury to start at scrumhalf, partnering Dan Biggar in the No.9 and No.10 channel. Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies make up the midfield.
George North, who scored a hat-trick for Wales on his last outing in Rome, and Liam Williams occupy the wing positions, with Leigh Halfpenny at fullback.
Wales' matchday squad features four players seeking their first taste of Six Nations action - prop Nicky Smith who starts at loosehead along with replacements Cory Hill, James King and Sam Davies.
Smith is joined in the front row by Scarlets pair Lee and Ken Owens, with their regional teammate Ball packing down alongside captain Jones in the second row.
The back row sees Ross Moriarty at No.8 with Justin Tipuric and Warburton at openside and blindside flank respectively.
"I'm delighted to name an experienced team for the game against Italy and to welcome back five players who missed out on the opportunity against South Africa in November," said Wales head coach Rob Howley
"The Six Nations is a special tournament and we are looking forward to being highly competitive. We feel this is the best side selected to start the campaign, we want to get off to a good start and we feel experience will be vital in that.
"There has been a lot of energy and enthusiasm over the past two weeks and we are excited going into Sunday.
"We know we are going to Rome to face a hugely motivated and very competitive Italian side."
On the bench, Rob Evans, who missed the November series through injury, is included alongside fellow front-row replacements, Scott Baldwin and Tomas Francis. Hill and King complete the forward contingent with Gareth Davies, Sam Davies and Jamie Roberts the backline cover.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 6 Sam Warburton, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James King, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts.
Date: Sunday, February 5
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)